Enhancing Pollinator Health & Habitat
The Southern Blue Ridge Mountains are home to Asheville, NC. The region boasts more biological diversity than any other temperate region on Earth, including about 500 species of bees. Biodiversity is an integral part of the landscaping philosophy at UNC Asheville. Over 400 different native species have been planted or protected by UNC Asheville’s knowledgeable Grounds Department. Plants are chosen to provide pollen and nectar throughout the entire growing season. Clumping no-mow grasses, perennial flower stems, and tree stumps/ snags provide habitat for native ground-nesting and solitary bees and wasps. In addition to planting sources of food and providing habitat, UNC Asheville seeks to minimize hazards for pollinators on campus.
Policies & Practices
Sustainability is one of UNC Asheville’s core values with faculty and staff committed to educating students “by modeling sustainable campus practices.” UNC Asheville’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan lays out methods of pest management based on prevention and control mechanisms that will reduce the use of toxic pesticides. This offers mechanical/ manual controls as alternative options to chemical controls. The IPM plan also outlines a “threshold for treatment,” indicated the levels at which below, no treatment is necessary. The IPM plan can serve as a model for other campuses trying chemical inputs in landscaping practices.
Education & Outreach
UNC Asheville is raising awareness about the plight of pollinators as a necessary step toward addressing declining populations. To bolster our outreach efforts, two UNC Asheville staff members attended the Bee City Certified Pollinator Advocate Course. The workshop connected us with other local advocates and introduced us to new outreach materials and strategies.
A webpage dedicated to pollinator-related activities at UNC Asheville has been created as a tool to disseminate information to the campus community and the greater Asheville community. The webpage includes the UNC Asheville Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Plan, lists of native plants incorporated into the campus landscape, a map of all of the designated pollinator habitats on campus, links to student research, and information on any upcoming events.
UNC Asheville has also hosted community events to raise awareness about the importance of pollinators. A workshop titled, Encouraging and Maintaining Attractive Pollinator Habitat: A Dialogue Among Ornamental Landscape Managers brought over 40 individuals from other universities, municipalities, residential communities, private landscaping companies, nurseries, and non-profit groups together on the UNC Asheville campus. The workshop presented an overview of threats to pollinators and discussed the opportunities for institutional campuses to providing pollinator habitat. Participants learned about the principles of plant selection in addition to pollinator garden preparation and maintenance.
Over the past year, UNC Asheville faculty and staff have hosted and participated in pollinator outreach events including: hosting a build-your-own bee hotel activities with Asheville Museum of Science summer camps; providing tours of the pollinator gardens and the bee hotel; giving radio, TV, and magazine interviews about pollinator activities on campus; and participating in outreach events at local elementary and middle schools.
This spring, UNC Asheville grounds staff will be presenting a talk titled: Feed the Bees- Your Role in Saving our Pollinators. The presentation will focus on creating pollinator gardens and growing your own wildflowers from seed. We will discuss the different pollinator gardens on campus and how the Grounds Department grows many of the wildflowers planted in these areas.
Students, faculty, staff, and community members have been invited to participate in pollinator service learning opportunities. Twice a year, during On-Campus Work Day, volunteers plant natives, manage invasives, and restock the bee hotel. UNC Asheville also hosts week-long special interest programs for new students prior to the start of classes. One of these groups participated in service projects to improve pollinator habitat on-campus and around Asheville. Another service learning project was hosted by two of UNC Asheville’s biology professors who recruited over 60 students to remove invasive species and plant native wildflowers in a new pollinator meadow.
Dozens of courses at UNC Asheville touch on themes relevant to pollinators and their habitats. Two courses, in particular, taught by members of the Bee Campus Committee have a strong focus on honeybees. Honeybees and Humans is a popular entry-level Humanities course taught by one of our on-campus beekeepers. The Biology Department’s Experimental Design, Data Analysis, and Presentation course had 108 students collecting data on pollinator visits, building on three years of collected data.
Jackie Hamstead, Environmental Specialist, UNC Asheville Campus Operations